Friday, November 9, 2018
“IS PARADISE BURNING?”
comment from a social media participant
monitoring the “Camp” fire from his or her home
To the extent that I grew up, I grew up in Chico. The span was 1957 through about 1980. Highlights of those years always involved a trip to Paradise – above the fog, below the snow – and to the ridge beyond. There was a Chinese dinner place called the Pagoda where a red-headed lady waited on us for visit after visit, year after year. I grew up thinking “Chinese ladies” all had red hair. There was the Wildwood Inn where, as young members of the Chico Community Band – I played tuba – after a concert in the Paradise Park, we stopped in for victuals that were so bad that the band director took us to Cal’s Drive-in in Chico for 29-cent burgers to make it up to us. And the Colonial Inn where first wife and I and another couple would end up for sundaes after a moonlight drive.
Most recently, on overnights when visiting family in Chico, the Ponderosa Gardens – a throwback to earlier non-chain motel day – would be our lodging of choice. Located across the main drag? The Italian Garden Restaurant, a joint I remember as a seafood place called Pinocchio’s with a narrow, spiral stairway to the storage area I had to climb in order to drop off freight when working my college-days’ summer job.
Pedaling a Schwinn three-speed up the Honey Run past the Covered Bridge I’d imagine myself a Yahi Indian stalking a black tail and not ever having to go to school. Picnicking at the cemetery in Centerville, I’d picture myself mucking nuggets out of Butte Creek. Strolling the Magalia flumes, I’d envision myself a ditch tender making sure logs cut up in the mountains raced unabated down to the mill in the valley. Piloting a motorcycle up the Skyway, over Humbug Pass and into the Almanor Basin – an adventure to be repeated over and over whether straddling my 1970 Honda Trail 90 or horsing my 2009 BMW GSA along that gravelly bi-way – imagining nothing, rather simply enjoying the sublime beauty of an endless and pristine northern Sierra.
On Thursday, November 8, the “Camp” fire – spawned around 6:30 AM – roared out of the Feather River Canyon, up the ridge and wiped out many of the places I recall from my youth (although we’re not officially sure, yet) and in its wake, took the possibility that some little kid living in Chico today might be able to replicate those memories or embrace those fantasies.
More than any wild fire in recent memory – and there have been more than a few – this one saddens me.
Church of the Open Road Press